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Friendship is the key! Having active friends can convince a couch potato to do more exercise, study finds

  • Sedentary people can be motivated to adopt active habits by those around them
  • An Army study found that moderately-active people were most effective
  • Social groups that are entirely inactive are more likely to stay that way
  • Being surrounded by inactive people can lead to a person losing healthy habits 

Being surrounded by active friends can help a person living a sedentary lifestyle get more exercise each day, a new study finds.

Researchers at the US Military Academy found that people who are in social groups were exercise is valued are more likely to be more active themselves.

The reverse affect is true as well, with those in relatively inactive social groups less likely to partake in exercise themselves.

Lonely people are also more likely to live sedentary lifestyles without another person around to give them a boost. 

The findings highlight the idea that the company a person keeps can be a boost to their overall health and direction in life.

A high prevalence of sedentary lifestyles has become a problem in America – fueling the nation’s surging obesity rate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 per cent of Americans are obese, included in the 70 per cent that are overweight.

An study finds that surrounding sedentary people with those who are moderately active can boost their activity levels. The reverse affect is true as well, as sedentary people will be motivated by each other to remain that way (file photo)

Dr Diana Thomas, a professor at West Point and study author, told that the idea for the research came from real life experiences on the campus.

She said that her team had noticed a trend of people becoming more interested in fitness and other activities once arriving. 

This is not usually the case at other schools and workplaces – where there is no significant impact on fitness.

Thomas believed that this trend could be the result of in-group social conditioning, where people will take part in activities that others around them are doing.

Using data from annual fitness tests on campus, percocet gout pain researchers looked at the impact that social groupings could have on a person’s performance.

Dr Diana Thomas (pictured), a professor at West Point, said that the habits of a moderately active person were more attainable to a sedentary person than those of extremely active individuals

One thing that jumped out to them was that the slowest times in a two-mile run test were often recorded in pairs 

‘These findings suggest that many of the slower participants, who were unlikely to have identical aerobic (running) fitness levels, made the social decision to run, jog, or walk the two-mile event together,’ researchers wrote in the study.

Thomas explained that this could be used the other way as well.

People whose data was gathered for the study were split into three groups based on their physical activity level – sedentary, moderately and extremely active.

‘Moderately active folks were the most important for drawing people who are sedentary to become active, and to sustain that activity,’ Thomas said.

She explained that sedentary people would be unlikely to change their behavior when placed in a group of the extremely active, as it would seem unattainable.

Sedentary people are more likely to develop moderate habits if they are around others with those routines.

Moderately active people are also crucial to keeping an entire social group active, Thomas explained.

‘What we found is if you have moderately active folks dropping out at a certain rate it would drive exercise to extinction,’ she explained.

A model built by the researchers to simulate exercise trends – using data gathered from West Point – found that without those who took part in moderate activity, eventually everyone would stop exercising.

Thomas believes it is possible to use social engineering to convince people to exercise more.


Obesity is defined as an adult having a BMI of 30 or over.

A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in kg by height in metres, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9. 

Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.

Percentiles compare youngsters to others their same age. 

For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 per cent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.

Around 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese. 

The condition costs the NHS around £6.1billion, out of its approximate £124.7 billion budget, every year.

This is due to obesity increasing a person’s risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.

Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.

Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK are taken up by a diabetes patient.

Obesity also raises the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people every year in the UK – making it the number one cause of death.

Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers. 

This includes breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.

Among children, research suggests that 70 per cent of obese youngsters have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, which puts them at risk of heart disease.

Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults. 

And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.  

As many as one in five children start school in the UK being overweight or obese, which rises to one in three by the time they turn 10.  

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